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Northern Ireland secretary James Brokenshire has joined a Conservative attack on Jeremy Corbyn’s views on the IRA, demanding that the Labour leader and his senior allies “come clean” about their approach.
Mr Corbyn has faced criticism in the Conservative-supporting press after he declined on Sunday to condemn IRA bombings without also condemning loyalist bomb attacks.
Mr Brokenshire said that Mr Corbyn and shadow chancellor John McDonnell should say clearly if the IRA’s acts of murder should be condemned unequivocally; if they believe the IRA were terrorists; and if its armed campaign was justified and legitimate.
“I have listened with interest and concern to the various attempts by Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell to explain their attitudes towards IRA terrorism during the 1980s and 1990s,” Mr Brokenshire said.
“Their complete failure unequivocally to condemn terrorism, and to attempt to contextualise it, are deeply worrying coming from two people who in just over two weeks seek to be entrusted with the security of the United Kingdom. ”
In an interview with Sky News on Sunday, Mr Corbyn was asked five times if he would condemn the IRA. The Labour leader said he condemned all bombing, adding that he always supported the peace process in Northern Ireland.
“In the 1980s Britain was looking for a military solution in Ireland. It clearly was never going to work. Ask anyone in the British Army at that time, and therefore you have to seek a peace process. You condemn the violence of those that laid bombs, that killed large numbers of innocent people, and I do,” he said.
After further questioning, Mr Corbyn explicitly condemned IRA bombings, but added that loyalists had been responsible for bombings too.
“I condemn all the bombing by both the loyalists and the IRA,” he said.
Mr Corbyn’s links with Irish republicans during the 1980s and 1990s returned to the news last week when the Times reported that he was arrested in 1986 during a Troops Out demonstration outside the Old Bailey. The Labour leader on Sunday defended his record on Northern Ireland, claiming that it had helped the cause of peace.
“I represent a constituency which has a very large number of Irish people living in it, and I pointed out that the prevention of terrorism act was counterproductive and was criminalising large numbers of wholly innocent Irish people.
“I took up the cause of the Guildford Four and Birmingham Six who were grotesquely misjudged by British courts and eventually were freed on the decision of the high court in Britain, and I wanted to bring about peace in Ireland. You have to talk to people with whom you don’t agree. And I did,” he said.